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Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Benji Coetzee

Benji Coetzee - Founder and CEO of EmptyTrips

Benji CoetzeeBenji is part of Africa’s top (award-winning) triple-bottom line evangelist start-up. www.emptytrips.com. An impact capitalist, Benji leverages tech, smart strategy and the shared economy thinking in an effort to save our planet & make profits.

After a decade in top-tier consulting and banking at firms like The Boston Consulting Group and HSBC, Benji decided to turn her attention to changing the world and founded EmptyTrips with Herman. The human whirlwind's focus is now on making EmptyTrips the largest provider of logistics services, where her double Masters (LLM & MPhil) and her Bachelor’s in Finance come in handy on a daily basis. 

Benji has been recognised by many within a short period of time, accolades include being a Forbes Africa Tech Disruptor 2018, Top50 Women in Tech - Entrepreneur Mag 2018, Frost&Sullivan On-Demand Logistics Innovation Winner 2018, AWIEF Top5 African Women Tech Entrepreneur 2018, Top5 Global Impact Challengers - SingularityU Africa 2017, Railtech Pioneer - Engineering Weekly, Insuretech TrailBlazer - DC Velocity (2018), Top50 Women in Tech - Innov8tive (2018), SA Innovation Winner - 2017, Top 30 Startup World Cup 2018, and most recently the Top60 Women Lead Tech Companies by Forbes. With her team, dominated by like-minded women, they have taken on a fight in a male-dominated, legacy-ridden industry to bring change, growth and environmental impact. EmptyTrips proudly addressed four of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but here is her story over the past aggressive 2 years...

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

After 10 years of top-tier consulting and financial services, I ventured into full time entrepreneurship with the aim to disrupt the African business status-quo. I hold Two masters degrees. I am currently scaling EmptyTrips, a logi-fintech high growth venture, (amongst others).

Please tell us a little more about how your company came about.

Approximately two years ago, I was driving along the N3 highway from Durban passing empty trucks and rail wagons along route. This got me talking to my partner (original co-founder), and thinking of numerous consulting clients complained about expensive transport costs eating into profit margins, yet there is oversupply given the empties?

Applying simple supply-demand economic theory, it simply didn’t make sense; excess supply leads to lower prices, not higher / expensive. I assumed better-matched demand and supply would lead to a lower equilibrium cost for transport… Aside from cost implications – and being a tree-hugger, the excessive emissions, road congestion and safety hazards caused by trucks in general, never-mind empty ones, was enough for me to try find a solution.

I decided that something needed to be done, a smart market for transport was needed to reduce the waste, the cost of transport and enable better utilisation of expensive assets. Technology held the key.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Itumeleng Sekhu

Itumeleng Sekhu - Founder of the Itumeleng Sekhu Foundation

Itumeleng SekhuItumeleng Sekhu is the Founder and Managing Director of the Itumeleng Sekhu Foundation and an author of a book titled What Do You See? She graduated from the University of Johannesburg where she completed a BA in Audiovisual Communications, majoring in Communications, Psychology and Media Studies sponsored by the Dis-chem Foundation.

Whilst at varsity, she became an intern for ONE Gospel Channel and Friends Like These on SABC 1. In the same year she worked as a content producer for The Sound Revival Show and The Scared Space on Metro FM. She was also a Project Manager for the Sbusiso Leope Education Foundation where hundreds of students were assisted with bursaries to go to tertiary. As a project manager, she was in charge of organizing seminars in South Africa which brought together esteemed entrepreneurs.

In 2014, she became a researcher for the SABC 1 TV show Making Moves at Bonngoe TV. She also contributed to many other organizations, a few being, Map Christ as a Communications Manager and a Brand Ambassador for Dove Unilever. She is also a Social Media Manager for I Do Magazine. She has currently launched her new venture of manufacturing candles. She says she lives to enlighten people’s lives and assist them in discovering their inner lights through these candles to ensure that people reach their full potential. She got burnt from a candle when she was 11 months old and her right hand as well as four fingers on her left hand is amputated. She however, did not allow that to dim her light and she can humbly state that she is fulfilling her purpose in the media industry in both television as well as radio for the past 6 years. She has one finger which is her thumb but yet she can type 35 words per minute and she can drive herself anywhere in the world.

What do you see?
is a gripping autobiography and testimony of the indomitable human spirit. This story is an illustration of her life and her ability to be at the odds that were so heavily stacked against her...starting with the fire that nearly destroyed her life. The chapters of the book take us on an emotional journey, firstly through the physical pain, after the fire and then through the rollercoaster ride of the pain she endured as a young girl who was rejected and ridiculed because she was different. She keeps the story real by telling it like it is and it is this authenticity, so wittily tinged with traces of humour, that captures the reader’s attention. What do you see? shows how her sheer determination and drive to not just survive but to live her life as God intended and sustained through the highs and lows. In this book she explains how she moved from anger and frustration to a close relationship with God.

The book brings forth leadership skills, self motivation and encouragement, healing of inner wounds in all individuals, purpose driven life, boosts self esteem, confidence, a desire to succeed, self introspection, ambition and passion for life.

Itumeleng’s life is an instant example of how one can come from a negative impact to changing one's life to success and ultimately reaching their full potential.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Pontsho Manzi

Pontsho Manzi - CEO: Fabulous Woman

Pontsho ManziPontsho Manzi is is the founding editor and publisher of Fabulous Woman magazine and author of arguably the first South African black female created and owned annual inspirational diary for women called Diary for Fabulous You. Pontsho is passionate about women empowerment, youth development and leadership and strated non-profit initiatives like Fabulous Girls Foundation and FabWoman Awards. “I realised that no awards exist that recognise the ethical values embodied in my campaign for women upliftment and empowerment, and women unity,” she explains and so she launched the Fabulous Woman Awards in 2013 to recognise and celebrate the foundational principles of ethical womanhood. These were the first awards in South Africa to recognise both girls and women in an effort to engender the spirit of sisterhood and cross generational bonding for all women of South Africa. As accomplished business owner, author, speaker, image consultant and coach, Pontsho embodies what the Fabulous Women Awards stand for.

She is the executive chairman and CEO of Botlhokwa Group; a holding company for three subsidiary companies called Recrutrain, FabImage and Bonisa Media. Recrutrain is an HR consulting and training company started in 2004 to deliver innovative staffing and training solutions to both private and public sector organisations in South Africa and the SADC region. The next addition to her business grew from identifying a need for image consulting as candidates kept asking for advice on self-image and image management. Pontsho qualified as an image consultant with The Image Academy of South Africa (A Member of the Institute for Colour and Image Consultants for Men and Women in California, USA) in 2006 before launching FabImage in 2007. This independent company offers image consulting services to companies and individuals in South Africa and the SADC region.

She has delivered talks in companies such as GIBS Business School, MTN, Multichoice, HPCSA, Old Mutual, SASRIA, Kumalo Green, Sasol, MAN, Transnet, Department of Labour, Vodacom, CellC etc. In 2011 she created and launched an annual inspirational diary for women called Dairy for Fabulous You through her newly formed publishing company called Bonisa Media. While working on the sequel to the diary, the feedback she received from women was overwhelmingly in support of a more frequent interaction or publication with the women to inspire women. And so Fabulous Woman Magazine was launched in 2012. The magazine links back to Pontsho’s original goal - to encourage dialogue amongst women and strive for a cause that is very close to her heart: women empowerment, women’s unity and the forging of an authentic sisterhood that encompasses beautiful clothes, confidence, self-esteem and mutual empowerment without competition or envy.

Pontsho has been awarded the 2014 DTI South African Premier Business Award, Young Entrepreneur Award and Play Your Part Award as well as the 2014 Women for Africa Awards: International Media Woman Category. In 2011, she was the Winner of Anne Dreyer Rising Star Award and in 2012 she was nominated as one of the South African Most Influential Women and the Shoprite Woman of the year Award 2012 -Heroine Category. She has been featured on media shows like SABC 3, ETV, CNBC Africa, Good Morning Africa, SAfm, Radio 2000, Kaya FM and in publications local and abroad. She sits on the board of VK Foundation and Young Women in Business Forum.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Eva Arissani

Eva Arissani - Director: Transcentral (Pty)Ltd

Eva Arissani XWOMOriginally from Libreville (Gabon), I had the fantastic opportunity to reside in many countries and got to experience different cultures. I did part of my basic education in France. At the age of 11, I flew back to Gabon where I started high school. When I got my High school diploma (Baccalauréat de l’enseignement général), I took off for South Africa where I undertook university studies. I was blessed to work as a Tutor for the Department of Modern European Languages -University of Pretoria, and thereafter as a French Assistant Lecturer. I fell in love with FLE (teaching French as a Foreign Language) and that naturally led me to teaching French as a foreign language and later on to translating and voice over. My objectives are to broaden my horizons as a linguist, transcend physical barriers and work as a translator, French voice over artist, inspirational/ motivational keynote speaker, facilitator, FLE Expert and expand as a leadership coach, a mentor and women’s and girl’s empowerment champion and as a young girl’s advocate.

I hold a Baccalaureus Artium Honores specialized in English, French, Translation and Interpretation, I am a Sworn Translator of the High Court of South Africa, an Expert in DELF/DALF (international French diplomas) and a trainer of trainers. I have facilitated many trainings at national and regional level. I attended a Course on public speaking (“Speak your way to success”), on keynote writing and motivational speaking that took place in Johannesburg in 2014 and was led by the one and only Les Brown (an American motivational speaker, author, radio DJ, former television host, and former politician). I am a Member of Golden Key International Honour Society in recognition of outstanding scholastic achievement. I started a blog and published a self-help book.

I am an Ambassador to Mireille Toulekima Global Leadership to South Africa (an organization based in Australia). I love her philosophy and I vouched to empower people and especially women and teenage girls to be the best they can be and tap into their true potential. The Mireille Toulekima Global Leadership organization was founded by the public figure and inspirational leader Mireille Toulekima. Its mission is to help people become the best that they can be, come out of the masses and stand in their own shining light. The Mireille Toulekima Global Leadership organization promotes authentic leadership across the world following the D.A.R.E (Decide Act Review Extend) Leadership System created by Mireille Toulekima. I see myself as a ‘multidimensional’ woman as I strive to pursue a professional career as a linguist expert but also as a leadership coach, a mentor, an inspirational / motivational speaker and as an advocate to empower people but most specifically young girls.

I am happily married and mom to 3 daughters.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Sibabalwe Sesmani

Sibabalwe Sesmani - Founder & Managing Director: Unorthodox PR and Media Group (Pty)Ltd

Sibabalwe SesmaneI am a 26 year old Xhosa female entrepreneur born and bred in East London, Eastern Cape. I attended the University of Johannesburg and completed my bachelor in Commerce in Economics and Econometrics. My working life started while still in university in my final year in September 2013, working as a marketer for Phillip Morris South Africa. The marketing bug since bit me as my following jobs were in a marketing role. In October 2014, I informally started my company and named it Unorthodox PR and Media Group, which wasn't registered till the following year in April. Before starting the company I had an urge to do more & be more and I was fortunate enough to secure my first client before my company was formally registered at CIPC. Since then we’ve won international awards for our clients, gone up against a listed company and we have been nominated for the continental Africa Youth Awards in 2017.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

I have always been entrepreneurial since I was very young. I remember when I was 11 years old and I wanted to have a cellphone. My parents didn't understand who I would be chatting to so I made a deal with them. Should I be able to raise half of the amount of the mobile phone, they would then be obligated to give me the other half and purchase my cellphone. A few months passed of selling popcorn and junk food that my peers adored so much and I met my target. I then presented R10 notes and many coins to my parents and soon enough I had my Motorola T190 mobile. I love telling this story because it's an indication of the qualities I've always possessed which are resilience, goal orientated, great problem solving skills, negotiation skills and my people skills. Going on this journey has possibly been the hardest 4 years of my life as I've sacrificed, watching my peers ‘seemingly’ surpassed me when it comes to attaining material possession and having to grow up very quickly to now being able to relate to older generations. On the way I've encountered an excessive amount of misogyny and a realization and awareness of how hard it is to be young, black and female in business. With the hardships and obstacles I've also built an immense amount of confidence, a no nonsense taking attitude, an assertive, aggressive nature and I do not take no for an answer. By losing friends and so called ‘supportive family’ one truly realizes how strong and capable one is, and I can safely say that not much scares me or gets me down.

Please tell us a little more about your CSI Initiative.

The Women’s Youthpreneur Academy which is now called the ‘Unorthodox Black Women’s Youth Network (UBWYN) was born out of my frustration of how young black women had to face almost impossible obstacles just to even gain a client. Women are scared, doubtful and undervalue themselves when we have so much to offer and bring to the table. This initiative started in 2015 with small gatherings to discuss issues. The gatherings were not always consistent as it seemed to me that women spoke a lot, but there was no action. The name change to UBWYN was inspired by wanting to create an economy amongst women. When it comes to big projects often women are told to exchange sexual favors for clients and even potential meetings which lead to nowhere which is absolutely ridiculous! It then dawned on me that there are more women than men and Africa is a fairly young continent in terms of inhabitants, so why not have our own economy, work with each other and use our collective voices to be the change that we want. I'm not a mother yet, but I have a 9 year old niece that I adore so much and I want to instill in her what I now know and I want her to be unapologetically aggressive by getting what she wants.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Jayshree Naidoo

Jayshree Naidoo - CEO: YIEDI

Picture Credit: Kehshan Naidoo – Shutter Square PhotographyJayshree Naidoo is the CEO of YIEDI, (Youth Innovation Entrepreneurship Design Institute) a company that focuses on Innovation and Strategy Consulting, Incubation Design and Management, Entrepreneurship and Supplier Development and Digital and eLearning Solutions. She has developed several frameworks and models for Innovation and Incubation and has created several structured acceleration programmes for Start-ups and Growth Entrepreneurs as well as Leadership Programmes for Corporates.

She was previously the head and the founder of the Standard Bank Incubator and has held several leadership roles in SA that include positions at The Development Bank of Southern Africa, Discovery, ABSA and Internet Solutions. She was previously the CEO of Feenix, a crowd funding platform for students launched by the bank, a board member of JASA (Junior Achievement South Africa), as well as the Chairperson of SAINe (The Southern African Innovation Network) and held a seat on NACI (The National Advisory Council on Innovation).

She was identified as one of the Top 25 Global FinTech Influencers. She has local and international experience in the fields of strategy, consulting, innovation, entrepreneurship and e-commerce. Her qualifications include an MBA, CAIB (SA), Honors in E-Commerce and IT.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

I am 45 years old and I have worked in corporate South Africa for over 25 years. I have been married to the same amazing man for 26 years. Jay and I have two beautiful children, Alysha and Kehshan who are both creatives and entrepreneurs. I was born in Durban and grew up in an Indian township called Chatsworth. I have worked in over 8 companies, in 7 sectors and held over 13 positions. I have several qualifications and I love reading and broadening my knowledge. I love painting, writing and reading.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Aletta Rochat

Aletta Rochat - Founder: Voicing Your Potential

AlettaAletta Rochat is a professional speaker and South Africa’s first Certified World Class Speaking Coach. She teaches clients how to breathe life into their speeches and how to make their messages crystal clear. Aletta is a master storyteller who captivates her audiences as she shares practical strategies you can use right away.

Aletta is the author of 'Speak Connect Succeed – Build Your Reputation As You Speak' as well as 'The Wedding Speaker’s Guide'. She is a Distinguished Toastmaster and is the Region Advisor for Toastmasters International in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Her clients range from corporations wishing to improve their presentation skills, to CEO’s wanting to be more persuasive in their speeches.

She has coached many executives launching new products and speaking at international conventions. She has a professional background in Marketing Management.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

Curious by nature, I am always looking for learning opportunities. By saying 'yes' and volunteering my time and skills, I have had wonderful experiences. My passion is to help people get ahead by the way they speak and present. As a child I learned the value of speaking and connecting well through multiple local and international moves.

Please tell us how your Company came about.

My volunteer work for Toastmasters International led to people approaching me for speech coaching privately. Most of my clients come to me by word-of-mouth. My client base, both individual and corporate, has grown steadily.

Please tell us a little more about your books, Speak Connect Succeed – How to Build Your Reputation As You Speak & The Wedding Speaker’s Guide.

'Speak Connect Succeed - Build Your Reputation As You Speak' came about as I found myself giving the same advice again and again. By publishing a book, this advice is now available to many more people. It is a practical book full of easy-to-use speaking strategies that positively impact your reputation right away.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Carol Matthyse

Carol Matthyse - Love Knows No Bounds & Agape Haven Restoration Centre

Carol MatthyseI am a 49year old house executive, wife and mom of 2 sons. I am a citizen of Cape Town, SA. I am the author of "The Preparation for my Destination" I have a passion working with women, bringing restoration to spirit, soul and body of precious women.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

In 2002 I started working with women in our surrounding communities. Having women camps and my focus was esspecially on women living in disadvantage communities, who cannot afford to go for counceling, who cannot afford to go and sit in a coffee shop with another girl friend. I have a great passion working with women. Seeing them restored to their original design and to walk in their GOD ordained purpose for their lives. As a woman who travelled through lives very painful journeys myself, I would like to see women being lifted out of their valleys of despair, depression, abuse, hurt, rejection ect... and learning them to know their self worth as a beautiful, WOW - Woman Of Worth. I believe when women knows their self worth, they will not tolerate in being a victim of this evil cycle of women abuse. I am a voice to those precious gems (women) that cannot speak up for themselves and that is crying out in silence for help.

In 2009 I started travelling to the continent of Africa on GOD's instruction, doing women conferences, training and equipping leaders, doing outreaches to orphanages, prisons, hospitals, schools, feeding the poor and GOD rescuing a tribe (IDP's) in Kenya who was almost dying due to starvation through my obedience and passionate love for people. My mission outreaches was to Kenya(7times), Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Egypt, Israel. From 2013 onwards I started ministering(teaching) women in our Parliament of S.A. and in Tuyn Huys. In 2015 I arranged a Global Womans Prayer Day and a Spiritual March through the streets of the heart of Cape Town.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Karen Wessels

Karen Wessels - CEO & Co-Founder: SnappSales & VA Connnect

Karen Wessels XWOMKaren Wessels is the co-founder and CEO of VA Connect, Africa’s largest virtual assistant platform that provides outsourced administrative support; and is also the co-founder and CEO of SnappSales, a company that generates quality sales leads for its clients. Prior to establishing both her companies, Karen spent over 10 years in different sales, marketing & admin support roles.

This experience has equipped her with the invaluable skills required to run her multiple international business ventures successfully. To date one of her biggest achievements has been the founding of SnappSales, a highly sought-after marketing agency that focusses on finding quality sales leads for its clients.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

My entrepreneurial journey started fulltime in 2013. One day out of the blue I quit my day job and since that day I haven’t looked back. My journey has been peppered with wins and fails, of which I am able to draw valuable lessons from in order to pave my path to greater business success. I have met amazing people on this journey and I truly look forward to where I’m headed as I positively impact the lives of those around me.

Please tell us a little more about how your companies came about.

My business partner and I saw a gap in the market when it came to the lack of quality sales leads for startups & SMEs. Coming from a sales background there is a noticeable chasm in many entrepreneur’s business armour and that is the skill of being able to sell. SnappSales was born out of a love for sales and being able to prospect in a successful manner and close the deal.

I had the privilege of starting one of my first businesses by helping a German company with their marketing. At the time I didn’t know of the term ‘virtual assistant’ yet that is what I was offering. As the offering evolved and more & more business owners & entrepreneurs come knocking on my door, VA Connect was born.

You are busy with some very interesting initiatives. Please tell us a little more about that.

I love the world of virtual assistance and really wanted to make a difference in the VA industry in South Africa. Daily I have ladies asking me advice of how to start their own VA business. I was able to partner up with 2 well established VA’s in Cape Town and my business partner of course, and together we founded Virtual Assistants Association of South Africa. We’ve had a phenomenal first year with creating VA awareness in South Africa. The goal is to up our game as VA’s and to offer all-round professional services to businesses and business owners alike. 2018 will be a year of increased awareness, but more importantly, more work creation for all VA’s. 


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Charlotte Kemp

Charlotte Kemp - Speaker & Futures Alchemist

Charlotte FB picCharlotte Kemp is a professional speaker, author, social media trainer and futurist. Coming from an experience of losing a franchise business a few years ago, and still feeling the financial after shocks, she is well aware of the implications of getting business wrong as well as the thrill of seeing one’s own work succeed and get traction. In order to explore what went wrong in her business, Charlotte wrote and self-published a book called “I’m Not Afraid of the F Word, 50 Lessons learned on the way to business failure.” The subject of this books was the content for numerous motivational talks to business owners, networking groups and even MBA students.

While using social media to market herself, Charlotte learned how powerful these platforms can be and soon responded to clients’ requests to teach them what she had learned about social media. Thus began a long and interesting career as a social media trainer and key noter covering many aspects such as marketing and PR, sales, networking, personal branding and more. She still owns the site LinkedInCoach.co.za and does in house LinkedIn training for corporates.

But it was the discover of the range and depth of the field of strategic foresight and futures studies that has really inspired Charlotte to explore these principles more in her professional speaking career. A member of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA), Charlotte and her husband, Past President of PSASA, Richard Mulvey, are actively involved in the speaking community. Charlotte has also served as Secretary to the Global Speakers Federation allowing her to learn from the experience of speakers from around the globe.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

My real journey started when I lost a franchise business that I had bought, which was supposed to be my financial fall back plan. Rather than take care of my financial needs, I lost everything – my house, my car, my investments. While the experience was obviously horrible, it taught me so much that I would never have learned if everything just worked out okay. I am now more resilient and more curious and willing to experiment. And temporary failures don’t scare me as much as before. Now I work as a futurist, having conversations with people and leading programs to help people to explore their feelings about the future and to find ways to prepare themselves for the huge benefits, rather than be anxious about the potential problems.


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